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It is now about thirty years since I prepared an American edition of a little book by the younger Tom Hood, which purported to set forth the rules of rime (the “Rhymester,” Appleton & Co., 1882); and it is just twenty years since I first gave a course in metrical rhetoric to a class of undergraduates in Columbia College. And I have long felt the need of a simple text-book for the beginner, which would serve as an introduction to the study of English versification. There are many volumes devoted to the analysis of poetry, but there are few which confine themselves wholly to the problems of prosody; and scarcely any one of these is exactly adapted to the needs of the novice who knows little or nothing about the principles of the metrical art. The subject is treated casually and cursorily in many grammars and in many rhetorics; but the main purpose of these books is to help the student to express himself accurately and satisfactorily in prose.
This is the simple text-book for the beginner that I have undertaken in the present volume. It is a text-book of metrical rhetoric. Its aim is to explain to the inquirer the technic of verse-making and to show him how the poets have been able to achieve their effects. It sets forth what I believe to be the fundamental principle of the art, - that all poetry is to be said or sung, and that its appeal is to the ear and not to the eye. This